In too many parts of New York State, it’s easier to find fruit-flavored soda than actual fruit. Nearly 3 million New Yorkers are living in lower-income communities with limited access to healthy food. A new report sheds light on the efforts to improve access to healthy food and how far New York State still needs to go.
The report, Healthy Food = Healthy Economy, details New York State’s work to improve healthy food access and its impact on the state’s economy. It also breaks down the current status of healthy food access in New York and the health problems associated with lack of access. Healthy food access is defined as living within one mile of a grocery store with healthy food options in urban areas and within 10 miles in rural areas, among other criteria.
New York was one of the first states to create a healthy food financing program with the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund (HFHC Fund) in 2010. The $30 million public-private partnership provided grants and loans for healthy food retail projects in supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers markets, mobile markets and other healthy food retailers in underserved, lower-income communities. The program has approved funding for 20 projects so far across the state, which brought healthy, affordable food to tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Those 20 projects created 441 permanent full-time jobs and 622 construction jobs collectively. However, the HFHC Fund is nearly depleted.
“We have made progress in improving access to healthy food, but we have a long way to go,” said Bob Elling, chairman of the American Heart Association’s New York State Advocacy Committee. “Far too many New Yorkers are still struggling to find affordable, healthy fruits and vegetables, putting themselves and their families at risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancers.”
Six out of ten adults in New York, and one-third of the state’s children, are at serious risk for diet-related diseases, which can be influenced by unhealthy nutrition. The cost of treating the chronic diseases related to obesity is staggering: related medical expenses in New York State are estimated at more than $11.8 billion annually. A healthy diet is a major factor in preventing the obesity epidemic, but many New Yorkers do not have access to the healthy food they need. In fact, 32 of New York’s 62 counties struggle with access to healthy food.
The Healthy Food = Healthy Economy report shows investing in healthy food retail and improving access to healthy foods can help keep both the New York community and the New York economy healthy. Click here to read the full report and see the list of authors.